The community is getting its first glimpse at three possible alignments for the Saddle Road extension.
The proposed extension would take Saddle Road from its new, under-construction junction with Mamalahoa Highway, south of Waikoloa Road, makai to Queen Kaahumanu Highway. All three of the initial alignment alternatives have the extension connecting with Queen Kaahumanu Highway near Waikoloa Road.
Department of Transportation spokesman Dan Meisenzahl last week claimed the department had “no options” yet planned. Consultant Ron Terry, of Geometrician Associates, said Thursday he has shown a preliminary map to several Hawaii Island community groups. After one of Terry’s associates contacted the DOT, and West Hawaii Today made an additional inquiry, Meisenzahl said he had misunderstood West Hawaii Today’s initial request for information about those alignments.
The proposed alignments are very tentative, he said.
“There are things still being considered,” he said. “Nothing is set in stone.”
Terry said work on the preparation notice is “really ramping up.”
“There’s quite a few things you have to do pre-EIS,” he added.
Sal Panem, of the DOT’s Highways Division, told a Kona crowd in February the extension is estimated to cost $70 million. He said at the time planning studies were under way. The project is listed on the State Transportation Improvement Plan list.
The first divergence of the three alternatives, numbered 4, 5 and 6, happens just makai of Puu Hinai, which all three routes run south of, according to the map. At that point, alignment 4 curves farther south. Alignments 5 and 6 diverge slightly later, with alignment 6 remaining along the existing Waikoloa Road route all the way to Queen Kaahumanu Highway. Alignment 5 curves south. Alignments 5 and 6 reconnect with alignment 4 just before all three proposed routes connect with Waikoloa Beach Drive.
The extension is a separate project from the ongoing Saddle Road realignment project. Grubbing and grading work recently began on the final leg of that project, which will move Saddle Road’s terminus with Mamalahoa Highway about seven miles closer to Kailua-Kona and south of Waikoloa Road. State and federal officials estimated they will spend roughly $75 million in federal funds over the next four fiscal years to complete the Saddle Road realignment project. That will bring the total spent on the road, including work already completed on the project’s eastern end, to about $250 million.